Well here I am. A throwaway comment from my parents saying that they were thinking about taking me to Fiji later this year has blossomed until TWO full language learning missions about to reach wondrous heights in the coming two weeks.
Well here I am. A throwaway comment from my parents saying that they were thinking about taking me to Fiji later this year has blossomed until TWO full language learning missions about to reach wondrous heights in the coming two weeks.
So here I am with a deadline quickly approaching. I’ve been devoting much of my year to Fijian and it occurs to me that I am solidly B2 in terms of speaking (probably where I am with a language like Hebrew or Finnish).
This would be a great situation but…as it turns out, Fiji also has Fiji Hindi as well, and I’ve read in multiple places that Indo-Fijians play prominent roles in the tourist industry.
And concerning Fiji Hindi, I am NOWHERE NEAR where I want to be.
What I can do:
(1) Very simple sentences
(2) Order stuff in restaurants
(3) Ask for directions
(4) Speak quite slowly
What I CANNOT do:
(1) Read most texts.
(2) Significantly understand naturally spoken speech (even though I can “get the gist”)
(3) Have anything resembling an intellectual conversation at all.
I’m not going to lie, 2018 has been a hard year for me, probably one of my hardest is recent memory. Luckily things are looking up.
That said, I have one chance to get Fiji Hindi to shine courtesy of this blog and my YouTube channel, and so I’ll have to set a plan in motion.
(1) COMPLETE the Peace Corps book in the language learning series (I think I’m slightly more than half-way-done)
(2) NO ENGLISH AUDIO for news or almost anything unless absolutely necessary while I’m at home. Fiji Hindi except for things related to business, or maintaning Fijian or other languages I may need for classes or business.
(3) I have to listen to Fiji Hindi audio on the street constantly. Luckily I have that.
(4) Maintain my Fijian (which I want in ship-shape) by translating every Facebook post I write into Fijian…until I leave.
(5) Truly build an immersive environment during what time I have left.
Fiji Hindi has been hard for me just because of the whole “not many resources” and “no standard” thing. Most South Asians I have encountered been very supportive, even if they didn’t even know that Indo-Fijians existed until I told them.
I am in panic mode right now. And on top of that I’m working on translations AND “Nuuk Adventures”.
But I guess this post will be something hilarious for me to look back on. Especially if I succeed.
I will make a prediction: I will have managed better with Fijian and POSSIBLY Fiji Hindi than I did with Burmese last year. I have learned much since the last time.
Leave me encouraging messages! 🙂
The last post of the month!
Because of work that I’ve been doing on “Nuuk Adventures” as well as other commitments, I haven’t been making videos or writing blog posts as often as I used to. I do love what languages give me, but the biggest dream in my life right now is to get my first video game published and popular and while there have been difficulties with that, I will need to make sacrifices in other areas of my life. And that’s okay.
Anyhow, for June 2018 I imposed a challenge on myself to not write two consecutive posts in the same language for a whole month.
Here are some things that I realized as a result of the experience:
Hungarian and Fijian were my primary focuses in June and will continue to be so in July (when I revive my Fiji Hindi as well). Devoting a serious amount of time to three languages every day will be difficult, but I’m not one to be afraid.
I don’t have a single Facebook friend who speaks Fijian (even though I do know some who can read Fijian words out loud and pronounce them correctly). That said, I often wrote posts in Fijian with English translations in the comments.
I have a substantial amount of Hungarian friends and Hungarian-speaking friends from other places (the U.S. and Israel, mostly). Between that and machine translations for Hungarian (despite the fact that they translated the word “Fijian” as “fiancé” in a recent post of mine), I didn’t need to translate them into English.
I struggle with Hungarian sentence structure (although I’m getting used to the cases better every day).
In line with that thought…
Learning Hungarian for me has proven to be MUCH, MUCH easier than learning any language from Oceania. Hungarian is all over the internet in comparison to languages like Fijian or Gilbertese.
As a result, my motivation for Fijian somewhat slumped because sometimes I felt that I couldn’t find interesting content as much (although maybe I’m…not looking hard enough! Yo, I’m always open for suggestions…)
Gilbertese was also an issue because “comprehensive input” (describing something that Olly Richards is currently using with his Italian project) has been…non-existent…except for my YouTube series on Gilbertese which is helpful but it’s clear that I’m a non-native and that my pronunciation in the earlier entries needed improvement. (the ‘ in the b’a combination is pronounced as “bwa”, and in some Gilbertese orthographies is written as such).
Actively translating things into rarer languages was helpful.
That said, sometimes I worried that I was “doing it wrong” and sometimes I realized that my vocabulary retention wasn’t too high.
But the key is to do something that helps, even a little bit, and to keep doing it.
Machine Translation or not, most people would see something in Finnish and scroll past it if they don’t have a solid ability to read it.
I saved my longer, eloquent posts for being written in English and then had quaint observations and jokes in other languages. This doesn’t reflect my skills, but rather my audience.
My posts are open and so when people saw what I was doing they were immediately intrigued. With growing skepticism of polyglot culture for a number of reasons, the fact that I was writing posts in many languages, some of which haven’t been touched by machine translation at all, was a clear marker that I was genuine (which I know that I am).
A lot of people in the online Facebook groups added me as a result. Yes, I have following enabled, but I’m always glad to help others in any way I can. Granted, I get hundreds of messages a day and it has been hard for me to keep up. But I do try.
I’m not going to lie, I genuinely enjoyed this, it made me project a more interesting version of myself and it cemented my vocabulary in many languages significantly.
I also got two corrections over the course of the month (one from a Hungarian speaker and another about word choice from a Swedish speaker). I’m grateful for your input and I don’t take it personally.
JULY 2018 Challenge:
July 2018’s challenge (I’m probably going to make the weekly challenges a habit, inspired by the legendary Ari in Beijing):
– I must translate ALL Facebook posts I write into either Fijian or Fiji Hindi. This is true regardless of source language. (Posts in Hungarian, Hebrew, Danish, English, etc. are affected)
– Exceptions include emergencies and life-changing announcements (including “Kaverini” announcements)
– I can write the translation in a comment instead (for example, if I want to write a very powerfully worded political piece, I may opt for doing this).
– I may use any orthography for Fiji Hindi.
– I may use as many English loan words in Fiji Hindi as necessary for it to feel genuine (e.g. the way an Indo-Fijian would speak). The same is true for English loan words in Fijian.
– For the sake of balancing translating into the two languages, I have to alternate between Fijian and Fiji Hindi with each post. If I translate into both, it serves as a wild card and I can choose which of the two to do for the next post.
– Instagram is unaffected, but if I share any Instagram photos or videos to Facebook, I must translate the caption into one of the two languages in a comment (or both).
– The challenge will be suspended in the event of me going abroad. (Foreshadowing?)
CAN I DO IT? We’ll see!
From years ago. My language list is a bit different now.
Not all plans are realized, and that’s okay. Especially given that May was considerably tumultuous for multiple reasons. For one, I needed to go into overdrive concerning “Kaverini: Nuuk Adventures” as well as the fact that I found myself more often without the motivation to rehearse languages and doubted myself more than I usually do.
That said, any variety of victory is to be celebrated. I devoted the first third of this month to Rotuman, a minority languages of Fiji, and it was very difficult for me to make recordings due to the fact that sometimes making a simple sentence took ten minutes that I had to cross-check from several sources. (THIS is what it is like learning a minority language with extremely few resources, this warrants its own post).
There is a new website devoted to Rotuman and I may glance at it at some point in the near future or even devote videos to it.
In addition to that, I got sidetracked a bit too often in May. Kiribati for the beginning, Hawaiian in the middle, and above all I had Fijian hogging almost all of my time to the detriment of any new “acquired” languages.
What’s more, rehearsing languages like Spanish and German feels like a dull chore (and Jewish and Nordic Languages, well, I sort of have to in order to continue teaching and so that really renews my motivation. I make no secret of the fact that I “don’t love popular languages any more than I have to”, although maybe the Jared of the future will be different in this respect).
May was a tornado for way too many reasons to count, and I got sidetracked and I did make a lot of new videos or new blogposts and that’s okay.
But this really enables me to clearly define my goals for June:
For one, I’ve decided to priority for the REST OF THIS YEAR one of my prominent heritage languages, Hungarian. 30 Minutes a day, every day (excluding emergencies, illnesses, travel, etc). If I don’t, I delete my blog. I may miss one day if I make up the minutes the previous day.
I’ll also let on the fact that it is my intention in the more distant future to raise my children multilingually (ideally in English / Spanish / Hebrew and two heritage languages from both my side and my spouse’s side). That’s a topic I’m not qualified to speak about quite yet.
For June, in addition to 30 minutes of Hungarian every day I’ll most likely choose to focus on a Southeast Asian Language (given that my Fijian is probably good enough to join the ranks of my conversationally fluent languages). The likely candidates are Lao and Khmer, the less likely candidates are Burmese and even Thai (which would be close enough to Lao to not be stressful, I can understand a significant amount of some of the Disney Animated Films dubbed in Thai because of my Lao studies). Vietnamese, while I like it, would probably be too stressful at this point, not withstanding my promise of no new languages for this year (I did study Thai previously, even with an exchange teacher, so I can re-activate it if necessary but it seems unlikely now that I’ll do so).
The biggest challenge for me right now is not only maintenance but also learning to believe my good fortune. Thanks to some unsavory encounters online I’ve actually learned to lie about my language skills–by downsizing them or claiming I speak fewer than I actually do. This is true even in person.
I also feel right around the time that there are certain languages that I “don’t feel the spark with” anymore, and I may have to drop some accordingly. I’ve noticed this happens right around the time that the seasons change.
In addition to this, I think I do need to devote at least ten minutes (if not thirty) to each of my fluent languages every week. Ones I teach are exempt from this (given that the classes count towards this quorum). This will almost certainly be time spent in public transport or waiting for it rather than anywhere else.
Here I am in Milwaukee at my grandmother’s house, bidding you greetings and wishes for success. Now I’m going to ponder as to which Southeast Asian Language I like the best. 🙂
Happy Birthday to Kathy Gimbel! (My Mom!)
Well three months of Fijian is, in a sense, over! But my studying and love of the Fijian language will, as things stand, never cease!
Did I become fluent in it? At the VERY least, I have a solid grounding in things related to tourism and getting around. At the most, I may be able to teach classes in Fijian will little of an issue!
A lot of people ask me if it is possible to learn a language in a short amount of time, especially given the endless debates about Benny Lewis’s “Fluent in 3 Months” name. (Do we need another reminder that the title is actually a challenge rather than a promise?)
Here is my honest opinion: in three months, it is VERY possible to assemble the FRAME of a language. This means that you (1) understand the pronunciation (2) understand how sentences are made (3) understand how various parts of speech (e.g. adjectives, nouns, verbs, etc.) are formed and where they go in a sentence. (Example: in a language like English an adjective would go before a noun in modifies, in Fijian it would go after, hence “the Bible” would be “iVola Tabu” [yes, the word “tabu”, from where we get the word “tabu” in English, DOES also mean “holy” in addition to something not spoken about or treated with holiness!]).
Once you make the FRAME, you start filling in the “picture”, which is vocabulary from which you acquire from reading / using the language / other means. I’m already 700+ words into my Fijian Memrise course (I intend to put the whole glossary of the Lonely Planet Guide into it!)
Anyhow, here are some observations:
Learning how to say basic sentences (and then, later on, more complicated sentences) is a confidence builder that will enable you to assemble the “frame”, however slowly.
In learning Fijian, I turned on audio about three weeks in and I could barely understand any of it except for when they lapsed into English (which, predictably, does happen in radio broadcasts—English is an official language of Fiji, after all). This actually got me away from immersion (which was the path of least resistance when I was learning English Creoles, for example) and more focused on my active abilities.
In a sense, this was an advantage – because I focused a lot more on my own acquisitions rather than expecting passive work to “do everything”. I did do some immersion at points, even when I felt I wasn’t really ready, in order to pick out key words, note sentence structure or, best of all, improve my accent. (The Fijian “r” and “s” in particular are very juicy—not surprisingly, many people from places like Papua New Guinea will speak English with heavily rolled r’s and thick s’s that sound like the “ce” in “Joyce”)
Even what may seem like heavy disadvantages can be used to hack your brain into getting it doing what needs to be done.
I remember one time that I was reciting Fijian phrases for a friend I remarked that I was “speaking Fijian with a New York Accent” (wait, that was last night, wasn’t it?) That said, I repeated the phrase in something that sounded more like natural Fijian as spoken by a native speaker.
I was really worried that I sounded like a “white person” in my first batch of recordings for the 30-Day Speaking Challenge, but interestingly enough I noticed that the more Fijian I spoke, the more I would be attuned to the pronunciation norms, especially when I would listen to Fijian music during my commute. (Warning: a lot of contemporary Fijian music does rely heavily on auto-tune, so some may prefer radio over music for that).
This is a good thing to keep in mind for my next three-month mission (May – July) as well as for future ones.
Fijian pronouns have FIFTEEN forms. Let’s have a look at this chart, shall we?
Guess how many of them I was using in my speaking exercises? Usually just “au”, “eratou” and “era” (sometimes pronounced as “iratou” or “ira”). For those unaware: paucal is for a GROUP of things, plural is for a LARGE GROUP of things (or speaking about a species or type of person in general).
And then of course the possessives were even odder because there are multiple possessive forms depending on whether you own the object substantially, will eat it, will drink it, or … miscellaneous.
I had to do a bunch of table recitations (and use them in sentences) in order to get this “missing information” in my head, because these pronouns and possessives ARE important!
Little I can say to this other than what I just wrote. In going through my Memrise lists there were so many words I didn’t know or recognize, but the important thing is to not get discouraged and move forward!
I can imagine that actually being in Fiji will be a significant guide for me to “conform” and patch up on my knowledge accordingly. I’ll learn a lot of aspects of formality and slurred speech than I may have not been able to pick up from my books or from the speaking exercises accordingly. I intend to believe in myself!
I’ll continue to be working on Fijian accordingly, but now that I’ve “assembled the frame”, I think I could turn my focus elsewhere. I’ve been working on Fijian almost non-stop for the whole year, and I’m itching for a new project.
So for May – July (as things stand) I’ll be doing Kiribati / Gilbertese (in addition to “sides” of other languages) and for the fall (August – October) I’m likely to focus on Hungarian. These were two languages I’ve dreamed of learning and this is the year they’ll get the attention they deserve!
Lastly I’d like to thank all of my readers for believing in me and writing supportive comments. Also! Ask questions! Suggest future articles! This blog continues to exist because of readers like YOU!
While I’ve been doing some light studying of Fiji Hindi on and off since October 2017 on my YouTube channel, I only began studying Fiji Hindi in earnest about a week and a half ago, having made it my primary project for April 2018 given that I’ve become ever more comfortable with Fijian.
Yes, I’ve been getting significant pressure to focus more on Standard Hindi (mostly from people who know very little if not in fact nothing about Fiji), but Fiji Hindi it is, because it is the “language of the heart” concerning pretty much all Indo-Fijians. Standard Hindi may be useful but my first priority is ensuring that I can manage Fiji Hindi well enough (because pretty much nowhere else online have I encountered anyone doing what I’m doing with Fiji Hindi right now).
I’ve made four recordings in Fiji Hindi thus far for the 30-Day Speaking Challenge and already I’ve noticed a drastic improvement in me being able to put sentences together. That said, I still speak in a very simple manner and come NOWHERE CLOSE to being able to ask for directions / order things in restaurants using only Fiji Hindi.
The process of making those recordings, on the other hand, has been difficult for a number of reasons:
While Fiji Hindi is, from the perspective of linguistic concepts, not too difficult (Palauan and Greenlandic required a lot of mind-bending), from the perspective of resources it has been the most difficult language I’ve encountered.
At least with Fijian I had phrasebooks. With Palauan I had a good website (tekinged.com). With Kiribati / Gilbertese I had a good textbook as well as several thorough online dictionaries.
For Fiji Hindi, I’ve haven’t had as many materials that have significantly eased the process for me. There is the Glosbe Sentence dictionary, as well as the Live Lingua Project (look under Fijian for the Fiji Hindi Course!), not also to mention a series of good grammar books (available on Google) and an excellent Memrise Course.
Oh! And there’s Wikipedia available in Fiji Hindi as well (https://hif.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pahila_Panna).
For dictionaries, I use Glosbe’s sentence translations, the CTRL-F function on various books, and this dictionary which tends to be very clearly hit-or-miss (http://www.oocities.org/fijihindi/FijiHindiEnglishDict.htm). For verb conjugations there’s Wikiversity (from which I compiled this video walking you through the conjugations):
That said, a lot of these materials have been inconsistent in multiple ways (e.g. writing systems, the grammar book even uses the Devanagari script which even the Wikipedia [intended for native speakers] doesn’t use, the Peace Corps book uses upside-down e’s and the Memrise course doesn’t [and neither does the Wikipedia or the small bit of the Lonely Planet South Pacific Phrasebook devoted to Fiji Hindi]).
In a sense, this language has been very hard because even sculpting a SIMPLE SENTENCE can take multiple cross-references of all of these materials as well as using Google Search’s function to find out how legitimate (or not) a simple phrase is (to do this, use quotation marks to ensure that the EXACT combination of words you’re looking for exists somewhere. This can [and usually does] work even for languages with small internet presences!)
There’s also Fiji Indian TV (at http://www.fijiindiantv.com/ , with a lot of their videos hosted on YouTube) and the amount of English loan words used is staggering (and a friend of mine, Kevin Fei Sun of Bahasantara [https://medium.com/bahasantara] gave me fair warnings about how commonly they’re used even in Standard Hindi). I’ve been using this to ensure that my accent is…well…better…in some respect…because both in person and on YouTube I’ve had people telling me that I “sound like a white person” when I speak Fiji Hindi.
Maybe all I need is more effort and speaking practice invested in Fiji Hindi and the problem will “go away”. But if you’ve ever had this issue with Indo-Aryan Languages (regardless of what race you are), then do let me know! I’m always ready to hear inspiring stories!
After a week or two of recordings, I’ll set in place goals to ensure that I don’t have “gaps” in my Fiji Hindi vocabulary, much like I did with Fijian in February and March.
By the way, the March 2018 30-Days-of-Fijian recording WILL be up by next week!
This is the beginning of what promises to be a very exciting journey!
30 minutes every day devoted to Fijian every day of February (although I skipped one day due to illness). One phrasebook. One free dictionary. Many songs. Lots of struggles. How are things?
Well, for one I’ve mastered all of the basics although there are two areas that I’m still rusty on and don’t get consistently correct:
If you know I know Finnish, you can probably guess which one I had the easiest time remembering. (For those unaware: one of them dangerously resembles a well-known profanity in Finnish)
(2) Plural pronouns (note: in Fijian all personal pronouns serve as relative pronouns as well. Instead of saying “The person who came here” you would literally say “the person he came here”)
But plural pronouns get mighty interesting in Fijian because they work like this. Prepare yourself:
Singular – one thing
dual – two of something
paucal – a group of something
plural – a big group of, all of the, speaking about a group in general (e.g. in the phrase “woodchucks would really like the food you give them” = this phrase applies to all woodchucks in the species, hence the plural is used).
Aside from these, which need some brushing up on, I have succesfully assembled the puzzle frame of the Fijian language!
I want, I have (oh yeah, another confusing thing involving different types posession! Things to be eaten or things to be drunk, dranken, drunken, whatever or things you have in a more permanent capacity — well, they have their own posession categories in Fijian) I must, negation (like French or Breton, you use two words to indicate negation), the Omniglot phrase list (although there may be some things I’m missing on that) and tenses. And many more! I’ve done a lot in this month and I think I should be proud of myself.
Obviously concerning the issues of pronouns and numbers I’m going to need to harden my memory of them. I have some plans involving memory devices and the nuclear option: an abandonware edutainment game called “Super Solvers Spellbound!” that you can also use as a language learning tool with devestating efficiency.
To conclude, three good things about how my Fijian has gone so far and three bad things.
(1) I feel for some odd reason that my accent doesn’t sound as good. I’ve listened to various radio broadcasts to imitate the accent (a lot of Fijian singers tend to rely on autotune so music doesn’t always help then. Also listening to Fijians speaking English doesn’t really help in part because of the deep Australian English influence not also to mention that many may speak Fiji Hindi as a first language instead. With many European languages I perfected the accent by listening to native speakers speaking English [e.g. with Polish, Swedish, German, etc.]. In places that are language salad bowls and / or have English as an official language, that can’t always be relied upon.). One thing I’ve tried to do is pronounce Fijian closer to the back of my throat and intone it similar to the way I do Tok Pisin (a language that gave me HUGE advantages in studying Fijian, given the grammatical similarities and yes, cognates between the two languages.)
(2) I haven’t had as much speaking practice as I would like. This will change because I’m doing the Huggins International 30-Day Speaking Challenge with Fijian next month (March 2018). I barely feel motivated to complete the February Greenlandic one for some odd reason, and this is coming from someone who deeply loves the Greenlandic language. Can’t say why. Maybe I need a break from active study.
(3) In listening to radio broadcasts I can almost always pick out the general meaning but sometimes I’m reduced to “word hunting” (e.g. listening to it and see how many words I can understand). With songs I’m even more out of luck. But again, autotune. But Fijian Lyrics are readily available online (the only smaller languages with lyrics equally as available were Icelandic and Faroese, unsurprisingly.)
(1) I’m really picking up what variety of words in Fijian are English loan words AND also how to English code-switch (which is something Fijian speakers do readily).
(2) The morphology is a puzzle that I’m getting better at by the day. Suffixes are becoming more intuitive. I keep in mind a piece of advice (I think from a guest post on Fluent in 3 Months) that with languages that are not closely related to English you have to draw connections INTERNALLY between the vocabulary. moce -> sleep. imocemoce -> bed. katakata -> warm. vakakatakatataka -> to make something warm (because of climate change this is a word commonly heard. If you’re having trouble pronouncing it, pronounce it as “vakakatkatataka”. Fijian has been the easiest language for me that is very dissimilar to English (yeah yeah, I know that there’s a mountain of English loan words in Fijian, but still). Back when I started it my first impression was that it was moderate difficulty among the languages that I’ve learned but now it seems that it is on the easier end.
(3) I met someone who lived in Fiji at one point and she was extremely impressed. (Her Fijian was limited to a few words but she said I sounded great!) 🙂
Now for March, my focus will be
Fijian (Month 2) and a return to Lao!
For April, it seems likely although not certain that I will begin Fiji Hindi in earnest!
Have YOU ever learned Fijian or any language from Oceania? Let me know about your experiences with it in the comments!